Congresswoman Summer Lee (D-PA) addressed the convention on Sunday morning. She began her remarks with praise for UE’s brand of aggressive struggle. “I know how UE, from Pittsburgh up to Erie, has been putting the bosses on notice time and time again. I know that you all know how to go get results.”
Lee was first elected to the Pennsylvania state house, defeating an incumbent establishment Democrat, with the support of only one union — UE. Since then, Lee said, the working-class political movement in Pittsburgh has elected “a new mayor, a new county executive, new council members, and new people at all levels of government.
“Pittsburgh got stronger when we started electing people who were actually working class,” declared Lee.
Lee reminded delegates that “Left to their own devices, corporations, even a whole bunch of politicians, are never, ever going to do what we need them to do, unless we are holding them accountable.
“Workers’ power lies in worker solidarity. It’s in worker courage. It’s in showing up and yes, it’s in taking it to the picket line when we know that what they’re offering us are slave wages and slave conditions.”
She said, “Right now we’re seeing unprecedented showings of worker power,” but also reminded delegates that even in Pittsburgh, a city with a long history of worker organizing and strikes, there are still workers struggling for union recognition at the healthcare conglomerate UPMC, at Starbucks, and at the University of Pittsburgh. “We’re a union town,” Lee said, “but we’re ever fighting. We’re ever fighting. Even when we’re not on the picket lines we’re ever organizing, we’re ever growing, we’re ever having to show up.”
It is important not only to be “ever fighting,” Lee said, but also to know “who we’re working against and who are working against us.”
Lee also emphasized the importance for the working-class movement of engaging in electoral politics, and contrasted politicians who “support” workers in struggle by saying “We hope that this gets resolved as soon as possible” with those who will say, “We are going to stand here until the workers get everything that they deserve.”
“You can have better than what you have,” in the political arena, Lee said. “If you can organize a strike, if you can organize against a Wabtec, then I know that you can organize against your local politician who has been in power for too long and hasn’t shown up for far too long.”
“This is our time to seize,” concluded Lee. “I am excited for your victory but it isn’t the last one because we know that the next one is coming. The next fight is coming and so is the next big victory. So I’m here to say, be encouraged, fight boldly, take what’s yours and leave nothing on the table.”